Bulldogs Move From Practice Fields to Begin True Training Camp Week

After four days of introductory practices, it's time for the Bulldogs to get serious. That's why Saturday marked the start of what Coach Dan Mullen calls the real training camp, as work shifted to the south side of campus and the notorious Farm field.

Saturday also marked the third day in pads, and thus the first that full contact can begin.

Mullen reviewed the first day on the Farm here, along with why this week away from the routine practice fields helps focus all minds on business.

DAN MULLEN 8-6-16: “The first day at the Farm was good. It’s good to be back at the Farm. Our there it’s great, just a different mindset for the guys. I think especially young players maybe a little bit of a wow, this is a shock. But for the older guys that have been it’s the we’re-in-training-camp mindset.”

“I think by having that place, going to practice there and separate training camp it gives them a different feel for where we’re at and what part of the season it is.”

Does it kind of block other things out for the younger guys? “I think it just changes it up. I think you can get monotonous after a while. The Farm is training camp. We’re not there that long, you’re out there anywhere from a week to ten days. I think ten is probably the most we’ve ever been out there, six is probably the least.”

“But when you’re there you are in a training camp mentality. I don’t know if it’s block it out. You just know it’s different. So I think that helps the guys as they get through training camp.”

Is it a shock to the system for the younger guys? “Well I think it’s a shock to their system no matter where we are right now! It’s been over 100 degrees I think every practice with the heat index. We practice at a pretty high tempo. So I think the younger guys are kind of shell-shocked right now just in existence!”

You lost some defensive linemen but talk about how the seniors are leading that group? “They do a good job. The one thing I think is lost, is everyone wants to look at starters. Well, to me I’d like to play 22 guys equal reps on defense. So there’s guys whether it be Nelson Adams, John Calvin, A.J. Jefferson, Will Coleman, Nick James…these guys have played a lot of football and I’m probably missing a couple more that have played in a bunch of games for us.”

“So now for us to continue that rotation we’re going to need some new names and some other guys to step up. But we’d like to make sure we can constantly rotate defensive players. We do have some veteran upperclassmen, and those guys have been around. They know how to lead, they know how to set the bar high, and what the standards and expectations of the program are so they can make sure the young guys understand where they need to.”

How do you get six running backs enough reps this preseason? “Well, it’s hot out, so they’re alright rotating right there!”

“We go ones, twos, and threes, so they each split the reps with different groups right now. But there are plenty of reps to be had at practice. When you’re going up-tempo the great thing is you can get some extra reps and guys get a little bit more work in.”

“And I think when it’s this hot out guys don’t notice if they missed any, they think they’re getting enough.”

Is it too early to have any separation at quarterback? “Yeah, because we’re in installation. You can take a rep out there where you’re with a true freshman offensive line, receivers, and three of your six plays guys went the wrong way. So you evaluate that for what it’s worth.”

“But to me we’ve got to get through installation and start, once it’s all in, who performs well.”

It’s looking down the road but is it possible to gameplan with four quarterbacks? “For a game? I’m sure anything’s possible. I’m never against thinking outside the box you know, I’ve never been that way!”

“I would love to have it narrowed down. I’d love to have it sorted by game week. It doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. But I’d rather go into game week saying hey this guy’s going to be the starter and go from there.”

You teach ‘thud’ and not tackling-to-ground, did things change today in full pads? “Not in 11-on-11 situations. We teach tackling and we’ll teach tackling to the ground in a controlled one-on-one situations. But no, in 11-on-11 practice we won’t go to the ground until next Thursday when we’re scrimmaging.”

But was there more popping today? “No. Maybe more popping today than yesterday. I didn’t think we practiced real well yesterday, I think they let the heat get to them. But today I think the focus was much better. I don’t think it had anything to do with whether you’re in full pads or you’re not in full pads. I think it had more to do with the leadership, the intensity of the team being more focused out on the field today.”

Is that something that comes from the coach or is it something for leadership from players? “Well I think you’re going to face all different types of adversities. I’d rather find a way to overcome adversity at practice and be prepared to face it in a game, than try to figure it out on game day. And there’s all different types of adversity.”

“It’s fantastic, it probably doesn’t feel good to be out there. I mean I was hot, I’m soaked head to toe coming off the field. And those guys are in full pads. But it’s you’re hot, you’re tired, you’re exhausted; can you be mentally focused to get your job done? That’s something that is really important and yesterday I don’t think we did a good job. We talked about it, we emphasized it. And it comes much better from the leaders, because they’re the ones setting a tempo. If they let any sort of adversity get to them, well the young guys, that’s who they are following so they’re going to go right down that path. So it’s the standard that those guys set.”

We still call it two-a-days but you only have two such practices this year. With NCAA limits on practice do you have to be more efficient now? “I don’t know. I think everybody is trying to be smarter. One of the things, as coaches we try to be very, very efficient and have a reason. I think the NCAA is catching up to the coaches right now, trying to look at the health reasons and implement rules based on health reasons that coaches kind of already believe.”

“Hey, I’d love to give the guys some more time off during training camp. I can’t. It just isn’t how the calendar works. They give us so many opportunities. There are so many things we have to get done and they give us a small opportunity to get it done. A heck of an opportunity if they would expand it out a little bit, for health reasons.”
“There’s nobody that has the team safety in mind more than myself and our coaching staff. One, we treat these players like our sons, we want them to be safe out there on the field for them. I also though have to have a team that’s healthy, ready to go and play a long season. I think those things combined, the coaches are on it and I think a lot of the medical studies that come out…coaches are trying to be ahead of that anyway, of what’s best for their team.”

Westin Graves said he was confident, what progression have you seen? “I think he’s a much more confident player. And confident in his role on the team. That makes it easier for him to perform at a high level. This time last year sometimes you’d think he’s kind of a nervous Nellie a little bit. What was he, a buck-50?! 5-8 and a buck-50 around these other guys!”

“But I think you see how he carries himself, and I think he has confidence in himself. He knows the team has confidence in him and I think that carries on to who he is in practice.”

Did you talk about this with him in off-season? “No, he just understands it. The talks we had last year, we had confidence in him last year. He had to get it within himself. And I think just being out there on the field and having to perform in games, it’s a much different mindset when you’ve done it on the big stage. Now you understand what that big stage is about. Now I’m going to make sure I’m prepared for it.”

How do Reggie Todd and Jamal Couch with their size give more opportunities this year? “And Osirus Mitchell. All three of those guys have some size to them. Because we lost a bunch of guys with size, so there’s opportunity for them.”
“But like with any freshman to me it’s how fast they can learn and adjust. Because size or not if they don’t know the plays and they don’t have the technique they’re not going to be there. So they’re right now trying to figure out how to practice, how to survive a college practice on top of learning a whole new installation.”

“I think there is opportunity to play. I don’t know who it will be, whoever picks it up the fastest will probably be the one that gets an opportunity to play this year."

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